Picture of hands climbing a ladder. Can hierarchy and sharing co-exist? Image from Flickr
Hierarchy in the workplace (image: Flickr)

All Bull: The flat hierarchy workplace philosophy offering an egalitarian environment with no bosses turns out to be, frankly, complete bull. Professor Andre Spicer (author of Business Bullshit) looks beneath the shiny flat surface of the Valve Corporation which promotes itself as a place where employees get to decide what projects they want to work on, thereby unleashing creativity and innovation.

The Truth: is in this management-less vacuum an informal but powerful hierarchy organically emerges, ripe with hidden bullying, arbitrary sackings and a neo-feudal structure that is no less oppressive for being informal.

Structure follows form: There are, however, long standing examples of companies that thrive without managers but nevertheless operate within closely bound networks that structure all work activities. The Morning Star Company, a tomato farm and processing plant, has no managers, a clear structure and upholds disciplined behaviours – such as daily stand-up meetings, review meetings and rigorous deadlines.

Why it matters: A flat structures does not mean no structure, and an anything goes philosophy will probably mean little does. However, rigidity in any format – either top down or imposed within teams, can smother the creative sauce that gives individuals and ultimately organisations their inner zest.

Listen to Sandra and Kai discuss this story on The Future This Week

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